Cancer is the leading cause of death in Taiwan. Because the causes of cancer are often difficult to identify, a diagnosis of cancer is occasionally attributed to karma and the concept of stigma. These feelings lead to a life predicament, and stigma influences these perceptions.
This study intended to understand how stigma is formed in the disease-related experiences of women with cancer.
Ten participants were interviewed at the time of a confirmed diagnosis of advanced cancer and completed cancer treatment with regular follow-up after treatment, and all subjects underwent 2–3 interviews. The number of interviews conducted was determined by data saturation. A content analysis method was used.
The stigma of cancer includes the concepts of “cancer equals death”, including the feeling of death approaching and an awareness of disease severity. “Cancer equals menace to social life” suggests that social life is affected and includes other individuals’ uncomfortable attitudes toward cancer (shame, sympathy, pity, suffering, and over-cautiousness) and external physical changes. “Cancer equals cancer-ridden life” includes being sensitive to the topics of death and calculating the number of remaining survival days.
The process from early diagnosis to the decision to receive treatment is complicated for patients with cancer. After the diagnosis is confirmed, the stigma of diagnosis significantly affects patients.
Regarding social stereotypes, educating the public to resolve individuals’ negative responses to cancer and further convey social and public information to women in society is necessary.